Equitable Distribution of Natural Resources

The Hague Institute convened a select group of experts for a roundtable titled “Equitable Distribution of Natural Resources: A Legal Principle, a Normative Guide, A Negotiating Tool or a Pipe Dream?”

The June 10 discussion featured two keynote speakers — Dr. Ashok Khosla, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel, and Mr. Martin Lees, former Secretary-General of the Club of Rome — and a select group of participants from Dutch academia, civil society, business and diplomatic community. Issues covered included:

  • notions of sustainability, justice and equity vis-à-vis present and future generations;
  • the provision of “global public goods” and the designation of “global commons”;
  • consequences of a more equitable and just distribution of natural resources for the local, national, regional and global economy;
  • necessary changes in definitions, measurements and lifestyles.

A policy brief summarizing the main points of the discussion, which was held under Chatham House Rule, will be issued by The Hague Institute in the coming weeks. Some indicative highlights follow:

  • Decoupling natural resource use and prosperity as currently defined may not be possible in a world of more than 7 billion people — some tough decisions concerning structural changes to our society, value and economic system, institutions, and choices of technology are urgently needed.
  • Increased efficiency cannot guarantee global sustainability without “sufficiency” and lifestyle changes.
  • The response to the sustainability challenges and the widening income gap has been to stimulate more demand. We are now living beyond our means, at the expense of nature and future generations. Nevertheless, we are incapable of agreeing to an approach to tackle the problems.
  • We need new definitions and role models for sustainable living and sharing of resources to avoid shortages and conflict.
  • Sometimes solutions are closer to home than we think: we can learn from indigenous peoples and small farmers who often know sustainable living and resilience better than aid agencies and companies promoting monocultures.

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